From the Pzyk Pryzm, to the unexplored visual realm of the Thorium-232; then to the Bedouin Boudoir to fight through shisha fog to experience traditional tabla and sitar, courtesy of Jasdeep Singh Degun and Gurchetan Singh; via of course, Human Soup and The Chrome Sugar Shack, which is burning Jankovic’s Hungarian animated feature-length folk-tale Fehérlófia into the consciousness of every sensory-overloaded onlooker.
It sounds like a time-warped, panoptic parallel dimension. And quite frankly it is. Although in scale it may seem small, in sonic scope it has us reeling in reverie. It might also explain why we had cameras glued firmly to faces more often than pens clutched to pads.
Echoing panellist Rob Chapman’s recent writings on the paradox of ‘authentic psych’, The Quietus’ Julian Marszalek points out in the liner notes of this year’s Pzyk Vol. 1 vinyl, exactly where Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia really succeeds. It’s in their unfaltering ability to host acts that manage to soak up past psychedelic heritage, whilst also being able to turn it on its head, seize it by the ankles and pummel and probe it like a prismatic piñata.
Liquescent Rorschachs seep down the walls of Camp as we’re greeted by Jacco Gardner’s guitarist sound checking his vocals with a sterling rendition of Walt Disney’s A Whole New World - fitting maybe on the surface, but certainly not indicative of the rest of the weekend’s musical proceedings - Dutch multi-instrumentalist, Gardner then eases us in with his dazed pop, carefully cut from the same paisley-patterned cloth as Arthur Lee and Syd Barrett. Tess Park & Anton Newcombe follow breaking out into an expected Brian Jonestown Massacre drone-dirge and confidently lock into a three-chord groove, as Parks sings in a sedated snarl and stares out wide-eyed across the crowd.
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Pinkshinyultrablast come on like a kamikaze Cocteau Twins and prove to be the night’s first major highlight, as Lyubov’s pure tones pirouette above the bands dream-pop-cum-post-rock clamour. She appears just as entranced as her audience, with her eyes tightly shut. Too transfixed to part, we unfortunately miss Destruction Unit’s set but catch Blanck Mass, the solo project of Fuck Button’s Benjamin John Power. The crowd soundlessly writhes along to the organ-puncturing clout of his glitchy IDM, which on occasion takes on a beefier form of the eerie electronica composed by acts on Ghost Box’s rostra.
As we enter District, we catch the glazed-over gaze of audience members who seem to be truly revelling in the ecstasy of Karen Gwyer’s ambient passages, shifting take on techno and grounding bass.
As far as occult AV freak-outs go, Bonnacons Of Doom’s early Saturday afternoon slot seems pretty hard to beat. If GOAT swapped in their feral acid-afrobeat for lurid drone and crushing motorik drum-fire, and traded tribal feathers for hooded capes and reflective masks, you might be part way there. The front woman’s vocal outbreaks erupt like the gothic exorcism of Patti Smith’s ghost.
Channelling 90’s alt-rock and sitting somewhere alongside fuzz-pop peers Speedy Ortiz and Joanna Gruesome, Menace Beach tear through 'Elastic' and blissed-out track 'Fortune Teller'. Over at The Blade Factory The Altered Hours flit between the exquisite shoegaze of Lush to gearing up for the head-on ramshackle thrash of set favourite Dig Early.
Despite organ issues onstage Death & Vanilla provide an hours respite from the days mind-bending intensity and instead offer hushed moments of placidity. As does the next two abstractive acts. Sarah Lipstate under the guise of Noveller seems lost in the process of creating her hypnotic soundscapes as she sways, Fender Jag in hand and stabs at the impressive pedal board beneath her. From wall rattling bass to mounting kraut inspired layers, both her and the audience seem insulted when an unfortunate stage-hand mimes that she’s run over. Upstairs Ex-Easter Islands Head strike a chord somewhere between Eno and Reich, as they hover over their laid down guitars, bells and prayer bowls and softly approach them with mallets, against an immersive ever-evolving AV backdrop.
In Furnace Jane Weaver’s synth-heavy theatrics and vocal aerobatics have drawn in the audience. Set standouts 'The Electric Mountain' and the hook-laden 'Don’t Take My Soul' bleed out to an attentive audience but fail to prepare listeners for the next upcoming acts.
Each known for their own shattering-brand of sonic exploration, before Spiritualized take to the stage Hookworms course through their 45 minutes, forcing their visceral noise at the raving crowd who passionately burst into life, pilling over each other in the pits which form beneath the frenetic silhouette of frontman MJ. Again they to run-over and both band and audience plead for more chaotic catharsis. J. Spaceman and co. then take to the stage for what turns out to be hands down one of the best performances of the weekend. The force of 'Come Together' seems truly revelatory for many of the cosmic congregation gathered below the blazing AV. We’d like to be able to admit we had more written about their headline set, but amid the expected Pzyk-headline spot pandemonium the only notes we were really focusing on were those of the storming space-rock anthems erupting offstage.
As we take our leave we take one last glance at the programme. Our eyes fall on the following snippet, which succinctly reads ‘FOR THIS IS OUR FUTURE’. Oh, how we hope that’s true.
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Words: David Weir
Photography: Paul Humphrey